We break for biscotti

Biscotti are one of the simplest, most versatile cookies you can possibly bake. Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and baking powder come together in a simple dough that can be flavored to taste (vanilla, almond, anise, orange, maple… pineapple! banana!). Or enhanced with impunity (aside from any possible fallout related to your waistline): chocolate chips, pecans, cinnamon bits, chopped ginger, diced apricots… In short, biscotti are Everyman’s Cookie.

So why doesn’t Everyman bake them?

I’m always surprised at the number of my baking friends who’ve NEVER baked biscotti. The ingredients are basic; the techniques are simple. (Can you pat out a meatloaf? Slice a loaf of bread? You have the necessary skills to make biscotti.) Just because something LOOKS fancy or unusual doesn’t mean it’s difficult. Witness my favorite all-time pastry, Almond Puff Loaf.

Or maybe it’s that people are used to those rock-hard coffee-shop biscotti, the traditional dense, Italian-style cookies meant to be softened in a cup of cappuccino before submitting to your nibble. I agree, those can be hard to deal with. But American-style biscotti—ah, a different creature entirely. Light and crunchy rather than dense and hard, these biscotti are made for eating out of hand (sans the need for a coffee bath). Or for crumbling and layering with pudding or mousse and fruit to make a tasty parfait, as our King Arthur Flour test kitchen director, Sue Gray, often does.

So, next time cookies are in the offing, don’t forget biscotti. They’re easier than they look. More versatile than chocolate chippers (in fact, they can easily become chocolate chip biscotti). Most kids are afraid to try them (too weird…) Which means—for once, the adults don’t have to stick their hand in the cookie jar and find it empty.

Lemon-Almond Biscotti make a nice, simple dessert, served with fresh berries or a perfectly ripe peach. To make the biscotti flavor of YOUR choice, simply leave out the lemon and almond, flavor with your favorite extract, and add your own touches: up to 2 cups nuts, and or chips, and/or dried fruit. Hazelnut cappuccino chip biscotti, anyone?
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Start with 1 fresh lemon. First, grate its rind, taking only the yellow part, not the white; the white pith is bitter. Once you’ve taken off the rind, squeeze out 2 tablespoons of juice (or 3 tablespoons, for more lemon-y biscotti).

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You’ll have about 1 tablespoon grated rind, along with the juice.

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Put the lemon rind in a bowl along with the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, and almond extract.

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Beat till well combined.

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Add the eggs and lemon juice…

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…and beat again. You’ll have a thin, somewhat curdled-looking mixture.

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But once you add the flour, it smooths out nicely. Pat the dough into a 13” x 3” log on a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet.

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Use a bowl scraper dipped in water to smooth the sides and top of the log.

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Bake the dough for 25 minutes. Let it cool for 10 to 25 minutes, then spritz it with water; this will make it easier to slice, which is the next step.

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Slice the log crosswise into 1/2” pieces. Using a serrated knife and a light touch will make the task go smoothly.

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Here’s what one biscotto (the singular of biscotti—who knew?!) looks like. It’ll be soft and somewhat moist.

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Line all the biscotto slices up on the same baking sheet, setting them on edge. This saves space, and helps them bake more quickly and evenly.

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After about 30 minutes in the oven, biscotti will be lightly browned around the edges, and will no longer feel moist on the surface.

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You can let them cool on the pan, just the way they are.

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Finished biscotti. Bring on the berries! Or not; they’re lovely as is.

Find our recipe for Lemon-Almond Biscotti.

Bake vs. Buy:

BUY Starbucks biscotti: 80¢/ounce

BUY Stella Doro Anisette Toast Cookies: 44¢/ounce

BAKE Homemade Lemon-Almond Biscotti (ingredients cost): 10¢/ounce

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Natalie Kaltenbach

    I make this recipe but no almond ( huge lemon fan). Instead of almond I add lemon oil and after cooling I drizzle with white chocolate that is flavored with lemon oil also. If you are a die hard lemon fan, the oil makes all the diffetence.

    Reply
  2. Lynne

    I’ve found that the easiest way to shape the biscotti dough is wearing disposable gloves. Scoop the dough onto parchment paper and dampen your gloved hands to shape the dough. It can be shaped and patted smoothly with ease. No sticky dough to handle. Wearing gloves also makes shaping meatloaf and meatballs a breeze.

    Reply
  3. Barbara whitaker

    these look delicious! I need to make them way ahead of time. Can these be frozen with frosting. I am afraid they might lose some of the texture.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Barbara, you could definitely freeze them without the frosting. I would recommend thawing and then crisping them up in a low oven before adding the frosting. Barb@KAF

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